Thursday, May 1, 2008
`Welcome Home Boys`
One of the best bits about living in New York City is being able to escape the city. Finding the right person to have these adventures with is a bit more difficult. Lucky for me i have a friend who stays on top of my nonchalant comments such as, "check out Felice Brothers" or "hey Erick from The Rosewood Thieves loves AA Bondy- what do you think?" and researches everything to the hilt. Due to my friends' skills we soon learned that AA Bondy was added as a last minute opener for the Felice Brothers homecoming concert because he is in fact a Felice Brother...of sorts. After moving from Alabama to upstate New York he met and married a Felice sister. Once this element was unveiled my first trip to Woodstock became a necessity- for how could one miss such a show?!
Of course like any good road trip one needs to allot time for vital pit stops. First up on the itinerary was SilverMoon Bakery for required road treats (pretzel knots and orange rolls with chocolate chips). Being the resident dj for this particular trip leaves one a bit thirsty and since my partner in crime is interested in starting his own distillery where better to do research than the one and only Tuthilltown. The first distillery in New York State after prohibition and home to one of my favorite types of Rye ever Tuthilltown resides next to a local Gristmill which was constructed by an 18 year old back in the 1800's. Apparently they also welcome local hikers and rock climbers to camp on their land and feel free to drop by for a tour with the most lovely of tour guides, Joel. As if we needed more of a reason to smile from ear to ear Joel informed us on ways the company is looking after future generations of whisky lovers by investing research and resources towards becoming a more eco-friendly company. Toss in our favorite phrase: sustainability and we are happy little clams.
Upon entering Woodstock it was easy to understand why Dylan found solace amongst the gentile calm of the Catskills. Skinny roads shimmed up to the bottom of fuzzy hills so lush and green they glowed. The night was fresh and crisp walking up to the barn-shaped venue, Bearsville Theater which cleverly perches above a tiny ravine overlooking a stony mountain stream. Abutting the theater resides Woodstock Radio Station, WDST 100.1 FM who sponsored the homecoming festivus.
The evening kicked off with as a delicate AA Bondy strolled onto the stage cautiously and quietly. His set was as stripped down as they come with no banter or eye contact. He is a study of a singer-songwriter dedicated to his craft with an arsenal of songs and sparse yet moving lyrics. Not one to sugar-coat a story for his listener he lays down his words like breadcrumbs leaving the audience hanging on his every word. It was if you had stumbled upon him singing to himself quietly in the woods. The room crackled with electricity as he closed out his set with the expectant energy of family and friends awaiting their beloved Felice boys.
Once the merry band of five brothers took the stage the quest was complete. There is no other family ensemble that i have experience during my short life that can even come close to this show. It is not merely that they obviously cherish being on stage with each other; or that three of them switch off singing or playing the guitar or playing the drums; or that between songs they cling to each other weeping with affection and admiration-it is the intricate equation of all of these elements together. Getting their start from playing for friends during family picnics their parents should be right proud of what their sons have accomplished. Their songs range from fun, drunken ditties to stirring heartbroken lullabies that could swoon any proper girl into a full fiery blush. The rustic setting of this dear little venue tucked in the deep woods only made me feel like i was in a dream, for where do shows such as this exist in the space of the modern day music industry. Only in Woodstock my friends, only in Woodstock. Instantly i knew Eric and I had made the right decision to make the trip. If you love music like we do, it is moments like these that make for stories you will love to share and can move people to checking out music they might not have before. Being present amongst the Felice near and dear i felt worlds away from their show at Bowery Ballroom. Family members sauntered onto the stage to take a turn with their beloved kin, offering lights for cigarettes or lending a hand on the tambourine. It was an all ages gathering. To my left I was the sweetest teenage couple that sang every song-pausing to look at each other in a way that schoolyard lovers can. To my right was a father and son who shared matching smiles throughout the entire set. Whenever people complain that all shows are the same - it is simply because they have not found their own version of the Felice Brothers, and for this i hope they start a journey of exploration.
*During SxSw AA Bondy stopped by NPR and to share a few songs off of his latest album, American Hearts. Check it out here.
AA Bondy-Rapture (Sweet Rapture).mp3
AA Bondy-American Hearts.mp3
AA Bondy-There's a Reason.mp3
AA Bondy-Hang Down Your Head (Live Tom Waits Cover).mp3
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